The tax preparation company H&R Block releases its earnings report on Monday. And this year, the company has broadened its services; it will not only help file your taxes, it’s also offering to help you sign up for health care. This is a direct result of the way that taxes and healthcare have become linked by the Affordable Care Act.
“Presumably low- and middle-income households are where the action is on this issue of health insurance and tax filling,” says Bill Gale, a tax policy expert at the Brookings Institution.
Many of the people signing up for healthcare for the first time are from low- and middle-income households. This is the same segment of the population that makes up the bulk of H&R Block’s customers, whose satisfaction is directly tied to the size of their tax refund. This year, those refunds could be smaller for people who don’t sign up for health insurance.
“You could pay a penalty of $285 for not enrolling,” says Nicole Smith, an economist with the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.
For people who don’t sign up for coverage, that penalty gets larger each year. There are subsidies available for people who earn less than four times the poverty rate. All of this means that filing taxes this year will be more complicated than in previous years.
Companies like H&R Block owe much of their existence to the complicated nature of filing taxes. And now with healthcare thrown into the mix, their services have expanded accordingly.